Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Jamaica, 1 September - 9 September, 2000,
Gruff Dodd, 2 Clos Tawe, Barri, Bro Morgannwg, Cymru/Wales; Gruff@doddg.freeserve.co.uk
Strategy and results
Jamaica is not a destination for anyone expecting to amass a large trip total - a trip list of 100+ would be a good score for a one-week trip. However, what it may lack in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. The island boasts an extremely impressive total of 30 endemic species, all highly possible on such a short visit. I have listed below these species, together with local Jamaican names - it is very useful to know these names, as many Jamaicans know them:
Crested Quail-Dove (Geotrygon versicolor) - Mountain Witch,
Ring-tailed Pigeon (Columba caribaea) - Ringtail
Jamaican Owl (Pseudoscops grammicus) - Patoo with the big eyes
Jamaican Potoo (Nyctibius jamaicensis) - Patoo with the long tail
Black-billed Streamertail (Trochilus scitulus) - Black-billed Doctorbird
Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus) - Red-billed Doctorbird
Jamaican Mango (Anthracothorax mango) - Doctorbird
Jamaican Parakeet (Aratinga nana) - Parakeet
Yellow-billed Parrot (Amazona collaria) - Yellowbill
Black-billed Parrot (Amazona agilis) - Blackbill
Jamaican Woodpecker (Melanerpes radiolatus) - Woodpecker
Jamaican Tody (Todus todus) - Robin Redbreast
Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo (Hyetornis pluvialis) - Old Man Bird
Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo (Saurothera vetula) - Old Woman Bird
Rufous-tailed Flycatcher (Myiarchus validus) - Big Tom Fool
Sad Flycatcher (Myiarchus barbirostris) - Little Tom Tool
Jamaican Elaenia (Myiopagis cotta) - Sarah Bird
Jamaican Becard (Pachyramphus niger) - Mountain Dick (male), Mountain Judy (female)
Jamaican Pewee (Contopus pallidus) - Willie Pee
Jamaican Euphonia (Euphonia jamaica) - Blue Quit
Arrowhead Warbler (Dendroica pharetra) - Ants Bird
Blue Mountain Vireo (Vireo osburni)
Jamaican Vireo (Vireo modestus) - Sewi-Sewi
White-chinned Thrush (Turdus aurantius) - Hopping Dick
White-eyed Thrush (Turdus jamaicensis) - Glasseye
Jamaican Crow (Corvus jamaicensis) - Jabbering Crow
Jamaican Spindalis (Spindalis nigricephala) - Mark Head
Orangequit (Euneornis campestris) - Blue Baize
Yellow-shouldered Grassquit (Loxipasser anoxanthus) - Yellow Back
Jamaican Blackbird (Nesopsar nigerrimus) - Wild Pine Sergeant
There are also a number of near-endemic and Caribbean birds, which are shown below, as well as details on where else they may be found:
West Indian Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arborea) - Bahamas,
Cuba, Hispaniola, Caymans, Antigua, Barbuda, Virgin Is., but rare across much
of its range.
Plain Pigeon (Columba inornata) - Hispaniola, Cuba, Puerto Rico - winter only
Antillean Palm Swift (Tachornis phoenicobia) - Cuba, Hispaniola
Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima) - Hispaniola
Antillean Nighthawk (Chordeiles gundlachi) - Bahamas, Cuba, Caymans, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Virgin Is.
Loggerhead Kingbird (Tyrannus caudifasciatus) - Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Caymans
Greater Antillean Elaenia (Elaenia fallax) - Hispaniola
Stolid Flycatcher (Myiarchus stolidus) - Hispaniola
Rufous-throated Solitaire (Myadestes genibarbis) - Hispaniola, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent
Bahama Mockingbird (Mimus gundlachi) - Bahamas, cays off N coast of Cuba
Greater Antillean Bullfinch (Loxigilla violacea) - Bahamas, Hispaniola
Greater Antillean Grackle (Quiscalus niger) - Cuba, Hispaniola, Caymans
Jamaican Oriole (Icterus leucopteryx) - Caymans (extinct), San Andres
My priority was these endemics and near-endemics, and the trip was planned around these species. Little effort was put into seeing the shorebirds, seabirds, waterfowl, North American migrants etc that are also possible.
I was very happy with the trip, ending up on a modest total of 89 species, but these included all the endemics except one (Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo) and 10 out of the 13 near-endemics (I missed Plain Pigeon (out of season), Antillean Nighthawk and Bahama Mockingbird).
As far as timing goes, I think it depends on what you are looking for out of your trip. September was certainly not ideal, mainly because the breeding season is well and truly over then, and the birds, especially the cuckoos and quail doves were very quiet. If your priority is the endemics, April or May would probably be a much better time, although winter would be best if North American migrants were also of interest.
Thanks to all those who wrote and published such excellent trip reports, full of really useful tips on accommodation, directions and general advice, which I have shamelessly repeated where appropriate throughout this report!
Finally, as usual, many thanks to Sara, my wife, for all her patience and tolerance.
The flights were from London Heathrow to Montego Bay via Kingston and were booked through Ebookers over the internet, and confirmed by phone (http://www.ebookers.com tel 0870 010 7000). The flights were with Air Jamaica, and cost UKP 395 per head including all taxes. Please note that a departure tax of JAD 1,000 or USD 27 per person is payable on departure. Flight times were as follows:
Outwards: Depart London Heathrow 1.9.00 16:05, arrive Kingston 19:50
Depart Kingston 22:45, arrive Montego Bay 23:20
Return: Depart Montego Bay 9.9.00 22:05, arrive Kingston 22:35
Depart Kingston 23:55, arrive London Heathrow 10.9.00 15:05
Note that Jamaica is 6 hours ahead of the UK in September.
Car hire was arranged through Dhana Limited, a local firm based in Montego Bay. All arrangements were made over the internet (http:\\www.mobay.com) and by contacting the proprietor William Dhana by e-mail (email@example.com). William was very helpful and the whole business was a very painless affair. The car was a Toyota Corolla, with automatic transmission, air conditioning etc, and coped very well with the Jamaican roads. The cost was USD 453 (UKP 302) for the 8 day period. I drove a total of 1,450 km (900 miles).
The state of the roads was actually much better than I had been expecting. Virtually all the roads we drove were now tarred, including the previously appalling stretch from Hardwar Gap north to Buff Bay, which has been tarred very recently and is now an easy drive, although still narrow and twisting. I also found the road up from Mandeville to Burnt Hill perfectly driveable, (although I didn't continue down the other side through Barbeque Bottom to Duncans), as is the road up from Fisherman's Inn to Windsor Cave.
The biggest problem is the numerous potholes. Actually, that's not true. The potholes are fine - it's the meteor craters you have to look out for! Also, look our for those sneaky pot bunker holes which are deeper than they are wide - some stretches of road look like the Old Course at St. Andrews! These potholes are dotted around most roads, even the main coastal highways, but you can usually see them coming, unless of course you're driving at night, which I really wouldn't recommend if you can avoid it. The worst areas I encountered were:
Ø a couple of patches on the Falmouth - Windsor Cave road, especially in the village of Sherwood Content, and between there and Windsor;
Ø between Lionel Town and Portland Cottage and
Ø some odd patches on the road up to Burnt Hill, especially around Wait-a-bit.
They can all be driven quite easily in a 2WD, as long as you're careful. The untarred tracks up to Rocklands, within Hollywell National Park, and between Portland Cottage and the lighthouse are also pretty awful, and need to be driven with care, although again they are quite driveable in a 2WD
A lot has also been written about Jamaican drivers, most of which is quite true - they drive much too quickly, often inches from your back bumper, will usually stay in the middle of the road or swerve into your path to avoid a pothole, and will overtake you absolutely anywhere.
However, the one thing they have in their favour is that they are extremely predictable. You will soon realise that the car behind you will, without any doubt whatsoever, pass you at the first available half-opportunity, will not give you anywhere near enough room, and will make absolutely no allowance that in so doing, he leaves you facing a pothole / pedestrian / goat etc - that's your problem, man! Once you realise that, and that you are also expected to drive in exactly the same way, driving is actually pretty easy, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it!
The local currency is the Jamaican Dollar (JAD), although US Dollars (USD) were also very widely accepted, and often quoted in places like hotels, restaurants, shops etc right across the island. Approximate exchange rates against sterling (UKP) at the time of my visit were as follows:
Ø UKP 1 = JAD 60;
Ø UKP 1 = USD 1.50
These are the exchange rates I have used in translating costs throughout this report.
Credit cards were widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, shops, petrol stations etc. However, some places e.g. Marshall's Pen, Hollywell National Park required cash. We took our money in a mix of USD (cash & travellers' cheques), UKP and JAD. We changed money into JAD at hotels.
Don't even think of going to Jamaica expecting it to be a cheap destination - it is one of the most expensive places I have visited, and accommodation, food etc is considerably dearer than, for example, North America. The only thing that was cheap compared with the UK was petrol (but then is there anywhere in the world where it isn't?!), although at some JAD 24 (UKP 0.40) per litre, North Americans will probably still be appalled!
The total cost of the trip is estimated at some UKP 1,800 for 2 people:
Ø Flights - UKP 790
Ø Car hire - UKP 300
Ø Hotels - UKP 375
Ø Bird guiding - UKP 100
Ø Fuel - UKP 50
Ø Meals - UKP 150
Ø Incidentals - UKP 50
I hired two professional guides during the trip, namely:
Ø Fritz at Rocklands Tel +876 952 2009. Charged JAD 2,000 (UKP 33) for 3 hours.
Ø Dwight Pryce at Hardwar Gap. Dwight works as a ranger at the Hollywell National Park. Book him through the Jamaica Conversation and Development Trust (JCDT). Website www.greenjamaica.org E-mail jcdt@kasnet,com Tel +876 960 2848 or 2849 Fax +876 960 2850. Charged USD 100 (UKP 67) for a total of 8 hours guiding over two mornings.
Both were relatively expensive on an a per hour basis compared with guides I have hired in e.g. USA, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Poland etc. However, both were also very good birders, and helped me see a lot of species. I always like to use local bird guides, as you get a much better feel for the local bird scene, as well as other aspects of local life. I also believe that the more people who make a living out of birds and wildlife, the more likely it is that conservation will be a local priority.
Accommodation and food
We stayed at the following places (all accommodation prices are per room):
Relax Resort, Montego Bay. Room USD 90 (UKP 60) per night, breakfast extra. Nice place with pool and gardens, and very convenient for airport. Perfect for "normal" non-birding holiday-making partners, kids etc! Air con was only mildly effective. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Tel + 876 979 0656 Fax +876 952 7218
Relax Resort, Montego Bay. As above
Kariba Kariba Guest House, Mandeville. Room USD 45 (UKP 30) including breakfast. Very nice place on outskirts of town - really good value & highly recommended as an alternative to Marshall's Pen. Tel +876 962 8006 To find the guesthouse from the west, turn left at the first roundabout you encounter as you approach town, onto the bypass. After a few kilometres you will come to a second roundabout, where you can turn left towards May Pen, or right towards the town centre. The guesthouse is found by taking a rough steep track to the right just before this roundabout, approaching from the west. There is a small sign, but it is very difficult to see it in the dark, and we drove past several times, even when we were looking for it!
Marshall's Pen, Mandeville. Beef farm, home of Robert and Ann Sutton, Jamaica's foremost ornithologists. They have a self-catering flat here that they rent out to visiting birders - you must stay here if you can. Room USD 70 (UKP 47) per night Tel + 876 904 5454 or e-mail Robert & Ann on email@example.com
Marshall's Pen, Mandeville. As above
Hollywell National Park, Hardwar Gap. Self-catering cabin. Fairly basic - no hot water, and no electricity during our visit due to lightning strikes. Also, beds were a little damp. Gas ring and fridge (if electricity!). No food available locally - bring it with you. Minor discomforts more than compensated for by absolutely stunning views over the Blue Mountains, all the way to Kingston and the Caribbean, as well as staying right in the middle of prime birding territory - just a few hundred yards from The Gap café.
2-bed cabin JAD 2,500 (UKP 42) per night (reduced to JAD 2,000 (UKP 33) due to no electricity). 4-bed cabin JAD 3,500 (UKP 58) per night. Book through the JCDT - see details under Guiding above. Be careful to confirm your reservation - when we arrived they'd cancelled our booking because we hadn't paid in advance (they hadn't asked us to!), but luckily all the cabins were empty.
Hollywell National Park, Hardwar Gap. See above
Fisherman's Inn, Falmouth. Roadside hotel, some 2 km east of the town. Very comfortable, right on shore of Caribbean, with nice pool, but air-con was barely functioning, and we were really bothered by biting sandflies in the night. Very convenient for Windsor Cave area. Room USD 95 (UKP 63) Tel +876 954 3427 Fax +876 954 4078
We mostly self-catered or ate at takeaway chains such as KFC, McDonalds etc. We ate out twice, on the first night at the Relax Resort (very average meal, and grossly overpriced) and the last night at the Fisherman's Inn (excellent meal and good value, although not cheap).
Virtually none. We saw lots of police, including several roadside spot-checks being carried out, but I only got stopped once, for driving and reading a map at the same time. He didn't ask to see my documents, and let me drive on, after firstly giving me directions to Port Morant!
However, there is a lot of concern in Jamaica at present about the rising crime rate, in particular violent crime, and they are talking about giving the police much more power, which they are acknowledging in advance will infringe on their civil liberties. Future visitors may therefore see more in the way of roadblocks, stop and search etc, but it shouldn't be a big problem, as long as you've got nothing to hide!
Plenty of public phone boxes, but they only take prepaid phone cards. You will then have to find one that works. Even then, I never actually managed to complete a phone call, as every time I tried (maybe 10 times +) I was told that the number was busy - more likely a problem with the system. The international code for Jamaica is 876. To make an international call from Jamaica dial 00 followed by the relevant country code (44 for the UK).
September is in the middle of the rainy season, and you also run a risk of hurricanes. Most mornings were fine, usually clouding over in the afternoon with or without rain, sometimes in the form of a thunderstorm. It would usually clear up before dark.
The only really heavy rain we had was on 7 September in the Blue Mountains when it wiped out most of the day. It was very hot indeed (90 F +) in the coastal areas, and still pretty hot in the highlands. The only time it actually felt cold was at night in the Blue Mountains. This, together with the high humidity made things pretty uncomfortable at times. Dawn in September was at about 06:00 with dusk at about 18:00.
Health, safety & annoyances
No vaccinations are compulsory, but I would advise keeping up to date with the usual jabs such as tetanus, typhoid, polio, hepatitis 'A' etc.. Jamaica is not in a malarial zone. Mosquitoes were a real pain at times, especially around Windsor Cave, Elim Pools and Marshall's Pen. Cattle ticks are also reputedly abundant, with Marshall's Pen in particular being notorious for them. Somehow, I managed to go the whole week without getting one! Trousers tucked into socks definitely helped, as well as avoiding walking through long grass.
I did however manage to walk through some poison sumac or something similar on my first day, leaving my ankles covered in nasty welts and blisters, although it didn't cause my ankles to swell up and stop me walking as I experienced with poison ivy in 1999.
Much has been made of the current high incidence of violent crime in Jamaica, and we received many warnings about it before we went. This is undoubtedly a big problem - every time we turned on the radio it was some talk show discussing the problem, and how it should be resolved.
Of course, as visitors on a short trip, we would have been extremely unlucky to have fallen victim to such crime, especially as it is primarily a problem in the main urban centres such as Kingston, although petty theft etc is also a problem in most of the main resorts such as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Fortunately, most of the main birding areas are well away from these hot spots and this did not affect us in any way.
We were also warned to expect a significant degree of hostility and even racism aimed at us as relatively well-off white tourists. This largely results from the fact that the majority of tourists visiting Jamaica stay in large all-inclusive hotel complexes, known locally as "tourist prisons", and consequently the local economy benefits very little from their presence. This understandably causes some resentment among locals.
I am delighted to report that we encountered none of this hostility whatsoever, and never felt remotely in danger or unwelcome. On the contrary, our memory will be of friendly, hospitable people who made our trip a real pleasure.
Examples of little incidents which reinforce this feeling are many - the man who came running after me in Buff Bay to tell me I'd left the car's headlights on, the owner of The Gap café who happily offered us a loan of his tin opener and gave us a box of matches when he heard that our cabin didn't have these items, the couple talking in their driveway in Mandeville who I asked for directions for the Kariba Kariba Guest House, and who insisted phoning them for directions, and booked us a room at the same time as there was only one left etc etc.
I think it is worth emphasising this as I'm sure it is deterring other potential visitors from making a trip to Jamaica, which would be a great shame, for all concerned. Of course, you reap what you sow in this respect - a little respect and politeness shown will usually be repaid. A smile and a wave at passing pedestrians almost invariably got a wave back, and as Michael Schwarz at Windsor Cave suggested, preceding any request for directions etc with a polite "Good morning" will get you a much better response.
· Birds of the West Indies - Raffaele, Wiley et al (Helm). ISBN 0-7136-4905-4 A very nice guide, although too big to use in the field. I felt that the two plates that illustrated all the Jamaican endemics together were generally more representative of these birds than the illustrations of the same birds elsewhere in the book.
· Birds of Jamaica - Downer & Sutton (CUP). ISBN 0-521-38309-9. Excellent photos of all the endemics and Caribbean specialities, very informative text and lots of great background info. May now be out of print, but Robert Sutton has a stock of them. I'm now the proud owner of a copy signed and dated by both authors!
· The Rough Guide to Jamaica - Thomas & Vaitilingam (Rough Guide). ISBN 1-85828-230-6. Very good for accommodation, practical advice etc.
Jamaica - December 1999 - Ellen Paul
· Jamaica - June/July 1997 - George Dremeaux
· Jamaica - Winter 1998 - Keith Taylor
· Jamaica - March 1995 - Gail Mackiernan
· Jamaica - February 1999 - Gail Mackiernan
· Jamaica - March 1996 - Marcia & Ron Braun
· Jamaica - September / October 1988 - A Greensmith
· Maps of main Jamaican sites - Steve Whitehouse
· Jamaica - November / December 1994 - Mark Sutton
· Jamaica - November 1997 - Stephen Greenfield
· Jamaica - December 1995 - Mark Lockwood
These were obtained from Steve Whitehouse's FBRIS (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org tel 01908 454541) and the excellent web sites hosted by:
Ø Blake Maybank - http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/ns/maybank/Trips.htm .
· Bird sound recordings from Jamaica - Steve Whitehouse. Available directly from Steve
· There is now a new bird song CD or tape, produced by Reynard & Sutton, and published by Library of Natural Sounds, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (web site - http://birds.cornell.edu/lab_cds.html, e-mail - email@example.com).
Unfortunately, this was published about the same time as the start of my trip and I couldn't get hold of a copy, but I would strongly recommend that you do.
Everyone recommends the Esso 1:356,000 map of Jamaica, which can only be bought locally. This is certainly very good, and cheap at about JAD 60 (UKP 1). However, I actually found the Globetrotter 1:300,000 map of Jamaica & The Cayman Is. even better. I've been very critical of other maps in this series, but this one was quite superb. I had no difficulty whatsoever finding my way to such tricky destinations as Windsor Cave and Burnt Hill just following the map.
It was actually even more detailed than the Esso map, for example showing a critically important junction in Perth Town to Sherwood Content, on the way to Windsor Cave, which is omitted from the Esso map. It also has larger scale insert maps of Kingston and Montego Bay, and a superb one of the Blue Mountains that shows every road and track that I used.
Sites visited were as follows:
Arrived late, booked into Montego Bay hotel
a.m. Windsor Cave, p.m. Rocklands
a.m. Rocklands, drive to Maggotty, p.m. Elim Pools, drive to Mandeville
a.m. Burnt Hill, p.m. Marshall's Pen
a.m. Marshall's Pen, late a.m. Portland Ridge, p.m. Elim Pools, evening Marshall's Pen
a.m. Marshall's Pen, drive to Bath Fountain, drive to Hardwar Gap. Dusk road to Gap café
Hardwar Gap - a.m. Catherine's Hill, late p.m. Waterfall Trail, road to Gap café
a.m. road between Gap and Section, drive to Port Antonio, Mockingbird Hill Hotel, drive to Falmouth
Early a.m. Windsor Cave, rest of day lounging and relaxing (and not birding!)
Details of the main sites visited were as follows:
1. Windsor Cave
Wooded limestone karst area, at the edge of Jamaica's Cockpit Country. Good site for parrots (especially Black-billed), Jamaican Crow. There are various ways to get to Windsor Cave, most of them awful, but the quickest route is as follows (thanks to Marty Michener and Gail Mackiernan). Take the A1 coast road east from Montego Bay through Falmouth to the roadside Fisherman's Inn hotel, and set your odometer to zero (all distances quoted are from this point).
Head back westwards, and after 0.6 km take the road northwards signposted for Martha Brae rafting. Don't confuse this with the turnoff also signposted for Martha Brae Rafting right in the middle of Falmouth. After 2.3 km you pass through the village of Hague, and after 3.6 km a side road goes to the right over the river to Martha Brae. Don't take this road, but continue straight on. The next village you reach is Perth Town, and after 9.1 km take the right hand fork. After 14.4 km you will come to a T-junction in the village of Sherwood Content. Turn right here, and after 14.8 km take the left-hand fork. After 19.9 km you will reach another T-junction, where you should turn left. This road comes to another T-junction after 20.4 km. Park here, opposite a small drink stall run by Franklin. Allow 45 minutes to get there from Falmouth.
The track to the left, then immediately left again leads to the Windsor Great House, which is the base of Michael Schwarz and Susan Koenig, who are scientists studying the wildlife of the Cockpit Country. You can stay here (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, web site http:\\www.cockpitcountry.com ) - I don't have any details, although I understand that it's a little basic. The place is run by a Jamaican called Sugarbelly, who is pretty knowledgeable about the area's birds, and who might be able to show you Jamaican Owl or Jamaican Potoo. However, this would mean getting there and back in the dark - another good reason to stay at Windsor Great House.
From Franklin's shack, take the track that leads behind and up the hill, to the right of the round water tower with the bird drawings. This track crosses a stream, and climbs up skirting a grassy area on your left. At the end of this grassy area, the track splits - the right hand fork leads to the cave itself, while the left-hand trail winds off through quite dense woodland.
This is a feeding station and small reserve in the hills south west of Montego Bay. It was run until recently by its founder, Lisa Salmon, who tragically died in August 2000 in her late nineties. The plan is to continue to run it as a nature reserve, and it is now run by the caretaker, Fritz, who is also an excellent birder, and who is available for hire as a bird guide for the local woods (see above under Guiding).
If you don't fancy such exertion, you can sit on the covered patio, holding a bottle of sugar water, and wait for the hummingbirds to perch on your outstretched finger to feed from the bottle - a really amazing experience. This show isn't cheap - we were charged JAD 700 (UKP 12) - and neither are Fritz's guiding fees, but the cost is still pretty small in the context of the trip, and they badly need the income to keep the place running.
To get to Rocklands, take the A1 westwards from Montego Bay towards Negril. In the town of Reading, take the B8 southwards, signposted for Anchovy, Ferris Cross, Black River etc. 3.5 km from this junction, an untarred road goes to the left, where there is a sign for Rocklands Feeding Station - this sign is right on the junction and so it is very easy to drive past it. 0.2 km down this track, take the right hand fork up the hill and Rocklands is on the right hand side 0.9 km from the turnoff from the Anchovy road. This last section of road is very steep and rough, so take your time.
The entrance to Rocklands is on the right - park carefully opposite here. If you want to explore the surrounding woods, take the track that leads off on the same side of the road as Rocklands just to the left of the entrance.
3. Elim Pools (Black River Upper Morasse)
Superb and extensive wetland area. The speciality is West Indian Whistling Duck, and it is also good for Northern Jacana, Caribbean Coot and loads of herons and egrets.
This site is accessed from the A2 between Mandeville and Middle Quarters. Drive to the town of East Lacovia (separated from West Lacovia by the village of Tombstone), and look for a Texaco garage on the north side of the road. A minor tarred road leads northwards from here signposted for Maggotty. Turn down this road and set your odometer to zero. Drive through the village of Haughton, and after 6.6 km, in the village of Newton, take the right hand fork (the left goes to Maggotty). Cross the creek here, and then (on 6.8 km), turn right along the creek on the dirt road.
The whole area either side of this track is excellent habitat, but the best spot and the most reliable for West Indian Whistling Duck is 13.4 km from the East Lacovia turn off, where another track leads off to the left, just before a pumping station. Wait around this corner at dusk for the ducks, or look out for them flying overhead. Drive slowly down this track to the left, enjoying the dozens of waterbirds on both sides of the road. I'm not sure how far this track leads - I only went down about a kilometre or so.
4. Burnt Hill
Another good area of wooded hill country on the edge of the Cockpit Country. This area is also good for parrots, and is supposedly better for Yellow-billed than Windsor Cave. Other specialities include Ring-tailed Pigeon, Jamaican Crow and Blue Mountain Vireo.
To reach this area from Mandeville in the south, take the road northwards off the by-pass signposted for Christiana. Set your odometer to zero as you pass the sign that says "Welcome to Christiana". After 4.4 km take the left hand fork, and pass through the villages of Dump, Lorrimers, Lowe River, Litchfield, Wait-a-bit and Stettin. After 24.5 km you will pass a sign that says "Welcome to Albert Town, and shortly after, on 24.7 km you will need to take the sharp left hand turn that cuts back on you. (If you miss this turning you will pass through Albert Town itself, on the road down to the north coast at Rio Bueno).
The next village you will reach is St. Vincent, and on 25.7 km, in the middle of the village, take the road to the right. After 28.6 km, another side road enters from the left, as you reach a stone bridge over a gorge - this is actually Burnt Hill (no house in sight!). Park here, and bird the surrounding roads. It took me 1 hour 10 minutes to make the trip from Mandeville to Burnt Hill.
You can return the same way, or alternatively you can take the side road to the left that comes out at the bridge. 2.7 km down this road you will come to a T-junction in the village of Spring Garden. If you turn right here you will be on the road which eventually comes out at Maggotty, near Elim Pools - I didn't travel this road. Alternatively, if you turn left, after a further 2.3 km you will reach the previous junction in St. Vincent.
At Burnt Hill, the road carries on over the bridge, and will pass through Barbeque Bottom, Kinloss and Clark's Town, reaching the coast at Duncans. Again, I didn't try this road, but if it's as good as the road from Mandeville it will be no problem. To find the way to Burnt Hill from the north coast, the directions are as follows. If coming from the east, take the left hand turn right in the middle of the town of Duncans - I think it's signposted for Clark's Town.
If you are coming from the west, continue eastwards past the Windsor Cave turnoff (signposted for Martha Brae rafting), and take the right hand turn just after the Guango Tree Bar Restaurant. After about 9 km this road reaches a T-junction with the road from Duncans, where you should turn right. Either way, you will soon reach the town of Clark's Town, where you will turn right following the sign to Kinloss. Just continue along this road to Burnt Hill some 11 km beyond Clark's Town.
5. Marshall's Pen
This wonderful old house and grounds are situated on the outskirts of Mandeville. This is the prime site for Jamaican Owl, especially with the Suttons' assistance, and other star attractions include Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, Crested Quail Dove, White-eyed Thrush etc.
The Suttons welcome visiting birders to stay at Marshall's Pen, but if you are planning a casual visit, phone them first (+876 904 5454)
To reach here from the west, drive towards Mandeville, and turn left onto the by-pass at the first roundabout on the outskirts of town. Set your odometer to zero here. After 1.4 km you will turn left, signposted for Somerset Quarries and, I think, Michael Town Community Project. After 1.5 km you reach a T-junction and turn right. Follow the road around to the left then the right, and after 2.1 km you will see the entrance track to Marshall's Pen flanked by 2 stone pillars opposite a bar.
After 2.7 km take the right hand fork in the track, and through the gateway. The first building on your left is the guest quarters - if you're staying here drive left around the back of these and park under the canopy. If you're a casual visitor, continue straight on here, and circle around to the left to the main house.
6. Portland Ridge
The best site in Jamaica for Bahama Mockingbird. Also good for Plain Pigeon in winter and Caribbean Martin in summer. From Mandeville, drive east to May Pen. Ignore the first turn to the right to Lionel Town (also signposted for Racecourse), cross the Rio Minho, and take the next turning to Lionel Town, also signposted for Hayes.
I got a bit lost finding the way from Lionel Town southwards to Portland Cottage, as there are many criss-crossing tracks here, but just ask directions for Portland Cottage and you'll find it easily enough. The roads are very rough here (although driveable with care in 2WD), but keep an eye open for Caribbean Martins on the telegraph wires. When you get to Portland Cottage, continue straight on through the village heading towards the lighthouse, looking out for the mockingbirds.
Try to avoid going here at midday like I did, as it gets very hot indeed!
7. Bath Fountain
This is supposedly a good site for the very localised but locally common Black-billed Streamertail. To get there, go east from Mandeville through May Pen and Spanish Town to Kingston. On the western outskirts of Kingston, take the right hand fork, signposted for Portmore and the airport. From here, keep more or less straight on, hugging the coastline, following signs for Harbour View. When you leave Kingston, carry on eastwards on the A4 through Bull Bay and Morant Bay until you reach Port Morant. Here, you need to turn left towards Bath.
After a while the road passes through Potosi, then swings right crossing a river, then passing through the village of Ginger Hall before reaching Bath. Everyone in Bath will be able to point out the left hand turning you need to reach Bath Fountain, which is right at the end of this dead end road! Bath Fountain is a hotel and hot water spring, and the surrounding area certainly looked good for streamertails, however this was the only place in Jamaica where we came across hustlers, and as one of just a few tourists, they became very annoying very quickly.
8. Hardwar Gap
This is a great spot in the heart of the Blue Mountains. It is the prime site for Jamaican Blackbird, as well as other specials such as Blue Mountain Vireo, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Crested Quail Dove and White-eyed Thrush.
To get here from the south, you will unfortunately firstly need to find your way through Kingston, where signposting is either non-existent or pretty unhelpful, mostly consisting of directions to other suburbs of the city. I found the best approach was to follow signs firstly for Half Way then New Kingston. You are ideally looking for signs to Papine, east of the city. By following signs to Papine you should eventually find yourself on Hope Road, then Old Hope Road. Stay on this road until it reaches its end at a junction with Gordon Town Road, where you follow signs to Gordon Town.
As you start to climb and the road narrows, you will reach a junction, with many signs for restaurants, guest houses etc. You need to turn left here (look for a sign for The Gap). If you miss this turn off you will quickly end up in Gordon Town, a dead end, where you will have to turn back (like we did!). Once you've found this turning, stay on this road through Irish Town, until you reach Newcastle. This is a military town, and the road actually traverses the army parade ground, through barriers at each end.
From here continue up hill to The Gap. If you are staying at Hollywell National Park, continue past a private farm called Woodside on the left hand side, then The Gap Café, also on the left. The entrance to the national park is shortly afterwards on the left - drive past the entrance booth, and go to the ranger station on the right.
There are several good areas around here, including:
9 Catherine's Hill
To visit this area you need a 4WD, or hire Dwight Pryce, a ranger at the national park who can take you in his truck. Return downhill to Newcastle, enter the parade ground, but instead of continuing downhill towards Kingston, turn left into Newcastle town itself. The road to Catherine's Peak is a steep, narrow, and sharply twisting concrete road which climbs steeply uphill shortly after this first turnoff.
You can only drive so far, before a chain blocks the road - park in the pulloff on the right. From here, carry on walking uphill, as far as the top of the mountain, or explore the track which leads off to the left opposite the pulloff.
10 Hollywell National Park
There are many tracks in the park which are worth exploring if you have the time, but the only one I tried was the Waterfall Trail. To find this, continue past the ranger cabin and park, being careful not to block access, near the picnic site. Go on foot through the gate, and follow the trail up and to the right towards the cabins. At the fork, take the right hand branch, towards Cabins 2 and 3 (left goes to cabin 1), and look out for the narrow trail to the right signposted "Waterfall" where a narrow pipe crosses the road.
11 Hardwar Gap road
Some of the best birding in the area is from the road itself, either southwards towards Newcastle, or northwards towards Buff Bay and Section. All this habitat looks good, but an area which Dwight suggested was good for Jamaican Blackbird, and at which we scored within 20 minutes of getting there, was 1.3 km north of the park entrance. Here, the road swings round to the left on a sharp hairpin, with a steep ravine on your left hand side. There are a lot of bromeliads, their favourite food source, in this area, and they are apparently often seen in this area.
11 Mockingbird Hill Hotel, Port Antonio
Another excellent spot for Black-billed Streamertail.
From Port Antonio, take the A4 east towards Morant Bay. Pass the Trident Hotel,
then the road swings inland around an inlet. You will next pass the Jamaica
Palace Hotel, and then look for the turn off uphill to the right to the Mockingbird
Hill Hotel. Take a drink or meal on the upstairs terrace, and enjoy the hummingbirds
feeding in the flowering trees around the pool.
Friday 1 September 2000
Arrived at Montego Bay at midnight after a fairly gruelling 23 hours travelling from our home in Barri. The two hour wait in Kingston Airport for a connecting flight was particularly frustrating. We were met at the airport by George from Dhana Car Rental, who took us to their office just outside the town to complete the paperwork, before escorting us to The Relax Resort hotel in Mo Bay, where we arrived at 00:45. Booked in and crashed out.
Saturday 2 September 2000
Despite the rigours of the previous day, I was up and out of the apartment just before dawn, after only about 5 hours sleep. Too many potential lifers to lie about sleeping! My plan today was to spend the day in the Windsor Cave area, and especially to try to make sure that I saw Black-billed Parrot, a species that had eluded several authors of trip reports I had read. My success or failure with this bird this morning would play a large part in determining my itinerary for the rest of the trip.
I delayed leaving the hotel briefly to enjoy my first lifer of the trip, a very nice Loggerhead Kingbird singing loudly from the roof of the next apartment block. Then it was away up the coastal A1 to Falmouth, pausing only briefly near Long Bay to watch a Little Blue Heron feeding in the sea along the roadside.
I followed Marty Michener's directions to Windsor Cave without any trouble at all, and stopped by the roadside exactly 5 km south of the village of Sherwood Content when I saw a small group of passerines fly up and out of the roadside grass. They proved to be a small group of Yellow-faced Grassquits, my first of these very common birds. A bird calling from some trees about a hundred metres away sounded like a Jamaican Woodpecker, but wouldn't show just yet. A screeching noise drew my attention to the first of a number of Jamaican Parakeets flying by.
A different, more varied screeching, heralded a few fluttering parrots overhead, but which species? Unfortunately, they were too distant for me to specifically identify. Just then a 4WD approached and out jumped Michael Schwarz and Susan Koenig, resident ornithologists at Windsor Great House who are conducting a study of the fauna and flora of the Cockpit Country. They had heard the sound of gun shots and were looking for the illegal hunters, probably after White-crowned Pigeons (Baldpates).
We got talking and I brought up the subject of the parrots, just as a couple flew over, which Susan immediately identified as Black-billed, based on their call. Sure enough, these had the distinctive red patches in the bend of the forewing (be careful - many don't), and they then alighted at the top of a nearby tree, allowing excellent looks at the black bill and eye patch, and uniform green plumage.
So, at about 08:00, I had my main target for the day! After Michael and Susan had moved on, I enjoyed more Black-billed Parrots, but no Yellow-billed. Susan told me that Black-billeds are actually much more common than Yellow-billeds at Windsor Cave (maybe 10 to 1) - perhaps they were previously under-recorded due to the confusion about the red patches in the wing. Yellow-billeds are apparently more common further south in the Cockpit Country, e.g. around Quick Step, or further east around Burnt Hill.
A pair of Greater Antillean Grackles flew overhead, and several Jamaican Crows called from the woods but wouldn't show. They really do make the most extraordinary noises, sounding much more like parrots than crows, but every now and then they give themselves away with a more monotonous nasal cawing noise, not unlike that made by Eurasian Jackdaws (Corvus monedula).
For a while now I had been hearing a short buzzy trill, not unlike the last part of a Yellowhammer's (Emberiza citrinella) song. I strongly suspected that they were Black-faced Grassquits, but hadn't yet managed to see one. The Jamaican Woodpecker flew in to a nearby tree as I looked for the grassquits, and gave great views - a female bird, with greyish crown.
At last the singer flew out onto an exposed branch, and it was indeed a Black-faced Grassquit. This subsequently proved to be one of the commonest birds of the trip, almost always seen in mixed groups with Yellow-faced Grassquits. I decided to press on to Windsor Cave proper, some 0.7 km further along. It was already getting extremely hot, and I was very glad of the chance to buy a cold soft drink from Franklin's shack. I slowly followed the track up towards the cave, with lots more Yellow-faced and Black-faced Grassquits calling from the reeds along the path.
A Smooth-billed Ani was hopping on the ground around the bridge over the creek - this proved to be a very reliable spot for these birds. Entering the wooded area I picked up a Black-whiskered Vireo and a Bananaquit, and an American Kestrel flew by over the meadow. Several Jamaican Crows were seen in the woods on the other side of the meadow, but none were showing particularly well, although they called continuously.
Although I had planned on spending the day at Windsor Cave, it was now getting extremely hot, I was getting savaged by mosquitoes (probably the worst place I encountered for these in Jamaica) and I had walked through some Poison Sumac and my ankles were starting to itch and burn. Worse, in my haste to get out birding early, I had left behind my insect repellent and anti-histamine, and had brought no food. I therefore decided, as I had got my main target of Black-billed Parrot, to return to Montego Bay to sort myself out.
As I got to the car I finally got good views of some nearby Jamaican Crows, and then I bumped into Sugarbelly, who runs Windsor Great House, who asked me what birds I was looking for. I asked him about the owl and the potoo, and he said that he might be able to show me a potoo, but only after dark. I made a note of this in case I failed to see one elsewhere on the trip, and had the chance to return to WC before flying home.
Back on the road 2 km towards Falmouth, driving slowly, I spotted an impossibly small hummingbird feeding from a roadside flowering bush, and indeed it proved to be a Vervain Hummingbird. I genuinely thought it was a large insect at first, until I recognised the silhouette. A small flock of Common Ground Doves flushed from the road - these also proved to be common Jamaican birds.
Back at the coast, I turned west towards Montego Bay, and then quickly pulled the car over to the side of the road as another American Kestrel flew by. The local "Cuban" form is really an attractive bird, and quite variable in plumage. The stop proved a very good move, as the next thing I saw was a much-wanted lifer - a Magnificent Frigatebird - floating over the blue Caribbean sea - quite stunning. This was quickly followed by a Brown Pelican and a Royal Tern, the latter fishing as the former just flew lazily by.
A second Royal Tern was seen a little further along, near Flamingo Bay. Approaching the outskirts of Mo Bay, some good birds were seen by the roadside. First to appear was an extremely confiding Smooth-billed Ani, quickly followed by a Zenaida Dove and a pair of Killdeer. Zenaida Doves have a bit of a reputation for being skittish and wary, so it was nice to get prolonged views at reasonably short distance, using the car as a hide.
Back at the hotel I met up with Sara, and had some lunch and a cold drink while watching the flocks of Turkey Vultures floating overhead. One looked a little different, and indeed it was a Red-tailed Hawk. After lunch I suggested to Sara that we go to Rocklands to see some hummingbirds and, somewhat to my surprise, she agreed!
On arriving at Rocklands we met up with Fritz, the caretaker / resident bird guide, and got in position for the hummingbird show. We extended our index fingers as a perch, and held a bottle of sugar water nearby, and sure enough we soon has Red-billed Streamertails feeding from the hand - an awesome experience. Many of these lacked the tail streamers, even though they had male plumage - I'm not sure whether these were immature birds, or in moult.
It was too hot to go for a walk, so we just lounged around the porch watching the streamertails and the Black-faced and Yellow-faced Grassquits and Common Ground Doves which came down to feed on the grain put out for them. Jamaican Mangos and Bananaquits also put in several appearances, and there were also single appearances from a White-chinned Thrush, Caribbean Dove and Greater Antillean Bullfinch.
By now Sara had got over her brief interest in birding, and wanted to move on! Having arranged with Fritz to meet up for a bird walk the following morning we returned down to Reading, and turned west towards Negril for a scenic coastal drive. I'd hoped for more seabirds but none were seen, although a random roadside stop outside Hopewell produced Grey Kingbird, American Kestrel and a small flock of Green-rumped Parrotlets flying by.
We got back to the hotel shortly before it got dark, and spent the last of the daylight watching White-crowned Pigeons flying by. One eventually landed on top of a nearby bush, giving good views - this was the only one I saw perched throughout my trip, although several were seen in flight, and many more unidentified pigeons were almost certainly this species. Finally, as night fell and we were sitting on our apartment balcony, I watched a Black-crowned Night Heron fly into a tree inside the airport perimeter fence.
We dined in the restaurant of the Relax Resort, a very disappointing meal and grossly overpriced, before retiring early.
Montego Bay (a.m.) - Loggerhead Kingbird, Northern Mockingbird
Long Bay - Little Blue Heron
Saltmarsh - Black-winged Stilt
Martha Brae - Loggerhead Kingbird
Windsor Cave - Little Blue Heron, American Kestrel, Common Ground Dove, Jamaican Parakeet, Black-billed Parrot, Smooth-billed Ani, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Crow, Black-whiskered Vireo, Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit, Greater Antillean Grackle
Falmouth - Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, American Kestrel, Royal Tern
Flamingo Bay - Royal Tern
Montego Bay (p.m.) - Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Zenaida Dove, Smooth-billed Ani
Rocklands - Common Ground Dove, Caribbean Dove, Jamaican Mango, Red-billed Streamertail, White-chinned Thrush, Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit, Greater Antillean Bullfinch
Hopewell - American Kestrel, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Grey Kingbird
Montego Bay (evening) - Black-crowned Night Heron, White-crowned Pigeon
Sunday 3 September 2000
I had arranged to meet Fritz at Rocklands at 07:30 for a walk around the adjacent woods. However, excitement and impatience got to me again, and I was at Rocklands at 06:45. A Caribbean Dove walked down the access road in front of the car and another stunning Jamaican Woodpecker, a male this time, landed in a tree next to the car giving excellent views.
Many Common Ground Doves, Yellow-faced and Black-faced Grassquits could be seen from the road feeding on grain near the porch of the house, and several Jamaican Crows flew over, as well as a Greater Antillean Grackle.
Several small birds were flitting around in the bushes alongside the road, and I settled down to try to identify them as I waited for Fritz. First to be confirmed was a White-chinned Thrush, then Jamaican Mango and White-winged Dove. Others were more elusive, and it took a while to confirm Black-whiskered Vireo, Jamaican Vireo and Sad Flycatcher. At about 07:15, Fritz arrived just as I got a glimpse of what I though was an Arrow-headed Warbler. Fritz joined me, and soon we saw that it was an adult bird feeding a still dependant young.
Having locked the car we proceeded on foot down the wide track to the side of Rocklands. An Orangequit shot across the path, but I didn't get a good look at it. However, I did manage to see a stunning male Jamaican Spindalis feeding in the low branches of a tree alongside the track, as the track climbed gently back uphill. Several White-crowned Pigeons flew overhead. A little further along we took a detour off the track into the woods in pursuit of a Jamaican Elaenia which Fritz had heard calling, and sure enough he somehow managed to pick it out in the gloom, perched low in the branches of a small tree.
Back on the track we arrived at where Lisa Salmon is buried next to her brother. A pair of Stolid Flycatchers were seen high in trees on the hillside above, but a calling Jamaican Becard refused to show despite extensive searching. We continued on the track uphill, and then branched off to the left. As the vegetation opened out on the left-hand side, a Jamaican Tody was first heard calling, then seen flycatching from the low branches of a tree. Another American Kestrel flew over, and a Jamaican Euphonia was seen hanging upside down feeding on flowers. A Jamaican Oriole was also seen very well at this productive little spot, and a Zenaida Dove gave unusually close-up views.
We continued along, past a ruined house on the left, and the path narrowed as it skirted the hill side. A couple of Ruddy Quail Dove flushed from the trackside vegetation, but didn't really show themselves. We eventually reached a crossroads, with a small open area on our right. A bird moving in a tree above us was picked up, and proved to be a female Jamaican Becard, making up for the individual missed earlier in the morning. We continued across the crossroads, ignoring the paths left and right, but promptly returned to the clearing when we heard the brief grunting of a cuckoo on the opposite hillside. This was a particularly skulking individual, but eventually gave brief and distant views as it moved around in trees high up on the hillside - just about enough to identify it as Chestnut-bellied, but not really enough to merit ticking it.
Back on the track we had taken, Fritz pulled off his coup de grace, when he stopped with a big grin on his face, and pointed out a magnificent Jamaican Potoo sleeping on the end of a dead branch no more than 5 metres away! Definitely the highlight of the day!
We continued a little further along the path, picking up another Sad Flycatcher, a pair of Jamaican Euphonias, Vervain Hummingbird and a White-chinned Thrush. Then, we managed to pick up our third Myiarchus of the morning - an excellent Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, huge in comparison with the Sad Flycatcher seen just a little earlier.
It was now about 10:00, and time to turn back, as I had to get back to Mo Bay before 12:00 to check out of the hotel. We therefore returned the way we had come, stopping once again to admire the Potoo on the way back. There used to be a well staked-out individual very near to the house at Rocklands, but it had disappeared a while back, and had not been refound. Fritz had discovered this second individual a short time previously, and should be a reliable stake-out - they are very faithful to their chosen roost sites. I would imagine that your chances of seeing one without someone local like Fritz to show you one are pretty low.
Back on the narrow part of the path, we stopped when Fritz heard a Yellow-shouldered Grassquit call. This was a greatly-wanted bird, being pretty elusive and hard to find. However, the vegetation here was very thick, and we didn't manage to get onto the bird before it flew up and over our heads and disappeared into the trees.
From there it was back to the house where we watched the Bananaquits, hummingbirds, doves and grassquits for a while before I settled up with Fritz and left. His services don't come cheap - I paid JAD 2,000 (UKP 33) for a little over 3 hours' guiding. On the other hand, I saw the trip's only Jamaican Potoo, Jamaican Elaenia, Stolid and Rufous-tailed Flycatchers and Jamaican Becard on this walk.
While I might have seen some of these on a solo walk, Fritz's eyes were good enough to convince me that I wouldn't have done so well without him, and I'd definitely have missed the Potoo. If UKP 33 is the difference between seeing these birds, and going without them, then given the cost of the trip as a whole it seems a small price to pay. Furthermore and more importantly of course, it helps to safeguard Rocklands' future as a nature reserve.
From Rocklands, I headed back to Mo Bay where I collected Sara, checked out of the hotel, and started on the drive to Mandeville via Elim Pools. The drive from Mo Bay to Elim Pools took about 2 hours, and we arrived there at around 15:00.
Shortly after turning onto the dirt track outside Newton, we passed a small pool on the right, over which a small flock of swifts were hawking. Their piebald appearance identified them as Antillean Palm Swifts, and an American Kestrel also flew past. Pretty soon we started seeing really huge numbers of Great Egrets, mainly around the sewage works on the left-hand side, and there were a few Cattle and Snowy Egrets in with them.
A Grey Kingbird perched on the adjacent fence line, a number of Barn Swallows circled overhead, and a Smooth-billed Ani flew over the road. Pretty soon we came towards the end of the track near the pumping station, and started seeing large areas of open water on the left-hand side. A dark bird on this near shoreline deserved closer attention, and indeed it proved to be a Reddish Egret, quite an uncommon bird in Jamaica.
Pied-billed Grebes were common throughout this area, often very close to the track. We turned left at the end of the track, and drove down the causeway between two bodies of water, until we found a large group of birds on a mud ridge in the middle of the lake on the left-hand side. The majority of these were coots, and both American and Caribbean Coots could be easily identified. An American Purple Gallinule was picked out among them as well as a few Moorhens, and at least a couple of Northern Jacanas were seen well - another long-wanted bird. Egrets were again common here, mixed in with several Tricolored Herons, and a pair of Glossy Ibises flew over.
A flock of ducks swimming beyond the coots proved to be Lesser Scaups, but sadly despite a wait of several hours, there was no sign of the elusive and primarily nocturnal speciality of this area - West Indian Whistling Duck. Eventually, it started getting dark, and we reluctantly gave up for the time being, and started on our way to Mandeville.
We hadn't yet booked any accommodation in Mandeville, hoping to stay in the highly recommended Kariba Kariba Guesthouse, on the outskirts of town. This took a bit of finding and the kindness of a local couple who telephoned them for us and obtained directions, but it was well worth a hassle - a real gem of a place, and highly recommended as an alternative to Marshall's Pen if the latter is full.
We'd already eaten dinner in the form of fried chicken and chips from a small takeaway in Mandeville, so we turned in early.
Rocklands - American Kestrel, White-crowned Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Zenaida Dove, Common Ground Dove, Caribbean Dove, Ruddy Quail Dove, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Jamaican Potoo, Jamaican Mango, Red-billed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Elaenia, Sad Flycatcher, Stolid Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Jamaican Becard, Jamaican Crow, White-chinned Thrush, Jamaican Vireo, Black-whiskered Vireo, Arrowhead Warbler, Bananaquit, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Spindalis, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, Orangequit, Greater Antillean Grackle, Jamaican Oriole
Elim Pools - Pied-billed Grebe, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Glossy Ibis, Lesser Scaup, American Coot, Caribbean Coot, American Purple Gallinule, Moorhen, Northern Jacana, Smooth-billed Ani, Antillean Palm Swift, Grey Kingbird, Barn Swallow
Monday 4 September 2000
I hadn't managed to see Yellow-billed Parrot at Windsor Cave or Rocklands, so I decided to spend the morning up at Burnt Hill, almost directly due north of Mandeville. I had heard some bad stories about the condition of the road to Burnt Hill, but I'm happy to confirm that the road from Mandeville via Christina, at least, was easily driveable in 2WD, and no worse than many I've driven elsewhere. There were plenty of potholes, but very few stretches where they were a serious problem, where you just needed to slow down and navigate a course between them.
I left Kariba Kariba as it got light, pausing briefly to admire an Antillean Palm Swift overhead and a fly-by American Kestrel, and arrived at Burnt Hill an hour and a quarter later. It was nice and cool up in the highlands, and I settled down with my telescope on the bridge to wait for parrots to fly over.
First birds seen were several Jamaican Crows, then the first parrots flew overhead. I was still having trouble identifying them in flight. The first few appeared to have very pale bills and front half of their faces, and lacked red wing patches, suggesting that they were Yellow-billed. However, I also saw several Black-billed, a group of which perched in nearby trees, and a fair number of these also lacked red patches in the wing. I also thought I could detect a difference in their flight calls, but wasn't happy to make an identification based on this.
Eventually however, a small group of Yellow-billed Parrots flew over lower, this time showing not only the pale bill and face, but also the distinctive red throat. I was happy then that the earlier birds were also Yellow-billeds, and they may even have been the same birds, as parrots were regularly flying over and past from all directions. Maximum counts of parrots specifically identified were 5 Yellow-billed and 10 Black-billed but there were many more I couldn't specifically identify.
While I was parrot watching a large pigeon flew in and landed high up in a nearby tree. I was sure it was a Ring-tailed, but it was just a silhouette against the sun, and I couldn't make out any plumage characteristics. Thankfully, it stayed put for over half an hour, and eventually the sun had moved around enough for me to be able to see the pale second half of the tail contrasting with a wide dark band near the base. Some time later, 2 others flew by, one flaring its tail wonderfully as it landed, and showing its distinctive tail markings perfectly. These were to be the only birds of this species seen on the trip.
My other main target this morning was Blue Mountain Vireo, which if seen here would take some of the pressure off when visiting Hardwar Gap. I started walking slowly down the road over the bridge towards the north. Around the corner, there seemed to be a lot of small bird activity around a clump of trees, and I settled down to see what could be identified. While I was waiting, a noisy flock of Jamaican Parakeets flew by.
Grassquits were again prominent here, with both Yellow-faced and Black-faced seen. A Red-billed Streamertail whirred by, and a Jamaican Tody flickered around in the front of the bush, and then in the branches above my head. A couple of vireos got my hopes up briefly, but the first was eventually pinned down as a Jamaican Vireo, while the prominent face markings on the second quickly identified it as a Black-whiskered Vireo.
A Bananaquit and a couple of Jamaican Orioles provided a splash of colour, and a Jamaican Woodpecker called and drummed nearby. Eventually I managed to get my first good views at a pair of Orangequits - these are both very quick flyers, and extremely aggressive birds, always chasing each other off their territories. By this time it was time to head back to Mandeville - Blue Mountain Vireo would have to wait until Hardwar Gap.
On the way to Burnt Hill I had encountered a fairly deep patch of landslide mud on the road just half a kilometre or so before reaching the bridge. I just about managed to get through it OK, but didn't fancy trying to go back that way, as it was uphill. I therefore took the alternative route back, through Spring Garden, and back through St. Vincent to Albert Town. This road wasn't quite as good as the direct route, but still easily driveable. When I got back to Mandeville (which also took an hour and a quarter), we checked out of the Kariba Kariba and headed for nearby Marshall's Pen, home of the Suttons.
Robert was there to greet us when we arrived, and he showed us to our quarters. On the way, he pointed out the small colony of Cave Swallows nesting in the garage underneath the guest flat, as well as the pair of Least Grebes and Green-backed Heron on the water tanks by the track we'd driven on the way in. A Smooth-billed Ani also flew over, as well as a Vervain Hummingbird and a small flock of Green-rumped Parrotlets.
Having settled in, (i.e. dumped the bags and extracted my binocs!), I set out to explore the grounds of Marshall's Pen. Robert has recommended the wide track, which is reached by walking up from the guest quarters across the flat concrete area towards the main house. From here continue onwards passing the house on your left, and follow the entrance road round to the right. Just after the gate across the track, there is another gate on the left. Go through this gate, and this track is a good place for most of the specials including Crested Quail Dove.
While walking through the gardens I enjoyed a White-chinned Thrush, at least one Jamaican Mango, Red-billed Streamertail, Bananaquit, Smooth-billed Ani, American Kestrel and an overhead Red-tailed Hawk, as well as several Loggerhead Kingbirds.
The track was dark and shady, and free of vegetation, and looked perfect for quail doves. Just after starting on the track I flushed a small bird which looked a lot like a Ruddy Quail Dove, but I got only fleeting views. With a light drizzle setting in, the only other birds seen were a Northern Mockingbird, my first White-eyed Thrush, another White-chinned Thrush and a pair of Jamaican Euphonias
Robert had mentioned that Yellow-shouldered Grassquits were being seen quite regularly this year, often to the bushes to the right of the house, near the start of the track, so I spent the last of the daylight staking out this area, but with no luck.
Towards the end of the afternoon, Ann returned - she had been on a trip to Barbuda studying their important population of West Indian Whistling Ducks - and we agreed to go out after dark to look for Jamaican Owl. However, she wasn't optimistic as it was still raining, and so it proved - not a sight or sound of this special bird. We agreed to try again the following night, and I returned to the flat for a bowl of soup and a couple of Red Stripes, and settled down to write up my notes and read my book.
Kariba Kariba Guesthouse, Mandeville - American Kestrel, Antillean Palm Swift
Burnt Hill - American Kestrel, Ring-tailed Pigeon, Jamaican Parakeet, Black-billed Parrot, Yellow-billed Parrot, Red-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Crow, Black-whiskered Vireo, Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit, Orangequit, Jamaican Oriole
Marshall's Pen - Least Grebe, American Kestrel, Common Ground Dove, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Smooth-billed Ani, Antillean Palm Swift, Jamaican Mango, Red-billed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Woodpecker, Loggerhead Kingbird, Cave Swallow, White-eyed Thrush, White-chinned Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Bananaquit, Jamaican Euphonia, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit
Tuesday 5 September 2000
Another early start, and having paused to admire the Least Grebe (only one this morning - the other had been heard making a commotion during the night and had disappeared by the morning), and the Green-backed Heron I set out again for the "Quail Dove path". Nothing was seen on the way, but just before reaching the cattle pens at the end of this path, a reddish-brown bird flushed ahead of me with whirring wings. This time, however, it flew back past me, giving good flight views - this proved to be my best view of Ruddy Quail Dove on this trip. A pair of Jamaican Woodpeckers and a pair of Loggerhead Kingbirds were seen on the slow walk back, as well as a Bananaquit building a nest in the low branches of a tree above the path.
I had another look at the Cave Swallows hawking over the water tanks, before enjoying a quick breakfast, and heading back for another walk along the path. A Common Ground Dove was feeding on the lawns in front of the house. I bumped into Robert & Ann around the house, and to my frustration found that a Jamaican Owl been calling right outside the house in the early hours of the morning (not seen). Even worse, while I was walking the path looking for quail doves, a Yellow-shouldered Grassquit had been singing from a bush right in front of our guest flat!
I started walking back along the path, and immediately got a quick look at a largish grey dove ahead of me, before it flushed with a loud whirring of wings, and disappeared over the ridge and out of sight. Sadly, this briefest of looks was the best I got of Crested Quail Dove on the whole trip, and for such an attractive bird it just wasn't good enough to justify a tick on my list. That one will have to wait for another trip.
Another White-eyed Thrush was spotted in the gloomy undergrowth under the trees, and little else until I reached the cattle pens, where there was a small flock of White-winged Doves feeding on the ground. A Jamaican Crow flew past calling. The walk back produced nothing additional, until a Jamaican Mango was seen around the bushes near the house. I had another chat with Robert, during which a Smooth-billed Ani flew over, and then I resumed my stakeout around the bushes for the grassquit. This time, however, my luck was in, and I soon had excellent view of a superb male Yellow-shouldered Grassquit foraging in the higher branches of a head-high bush - very different in behaviour from the Black-faced and Yellow-faced Grassquits which were usually feeding in the short grass in front of the flat.
Sara was in the mood for a little exploring, so we decided to spend the rest of the day trying to find some of the local area's specialities. First destination was Portland Ridge to the south east, for Bahama Mockingbird. Unfortunately I didn't realise how long it would take to get to this site and by the time we got there, we had only a little over an hour to spare.
I was still pretty confident of striking lucky, but this was a hot dry place in the midday sun, and birds were few and far between. An early morning is strongly recommended for your best chance of Bahama Mockingbird. A couple of mockingbirds were seen and briefly excited, but both proved to be Northerns. Grey Kingbirds, Smooth-billed Anis and Green-rumped Parrotlets were seen as we slowly drove along the track to the lighthouse, but eventually it was time to turn around and head back. A few shorebirds were seen around an area of mud and shallow water, and these gave me another tick in the form of a few Wilson's Plovers, as well as Killdeers and Semipalmated Sandpipers. A Black-winged Stilt and a pair of Tricolored Herons were also seen here.
From Portland Ridge we drove west for another visit to Elim Pools, and hopefully a West Indian Whistling Duck. On arriving at Elim Pools, the first stretch produced much the same birds as before. Egrets were again present in their hundreds, and several Smooth-billed Anis were seen. However, on arriving at the pumping station, I realised that the water levels had risen since my previous visit. The mud ridge on which many birds had been resting was now submerged, and the birds were resting on another which was largely hidden by a reed bed.
Nevertheless, I again recorded Pied-billed Grebe, American and Caribbean Coot, American Purple Gallinule, Northern Jacana, Moorhen and Glossy Ibis. There were even more Tricolored Herons present than before, and additional birds seen here included Green-backed Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron.
Then, I heard a rapid whistling behind me, spun around and got my binocs onto a pair of West Indian Whistling Ducks as they flew over and past, and dropped down behind the trees on the other side of the access road. These were to be the only ones of this elusive species that I saw, but I wasn't complaining. I waited a little longer, until it was almost dark, but the only additional birds I saw were a small group of Jamaican Parakeets flying over.
So it was back to Mandeville - a fairly "interesting" drive in the dark, but without any incident, and we arrived back at around 19:30. I met up with Ann, and we set off in search of owls. It was a dry, still night so we were more optimistic as we played the tape under their regular roosting tree right in front of the house, but with no reply.
Undaunted, Ann set off down the entrance road, turning left through a gate just before the guest flat, several dogs and myself following behind her. A couple of stops and hits on the tape, and then suddenly, an owl answered in the distance. It was still some way off, but we walked on a little, and into a field before playing the tape again. It responded again, this time a little nearer.
Suddenly, Ann switched on her spotlight, and swung it skywards, expertly picking out a Jamaican Owl as it flew in and landed on the bare branch of a nearby tree for quite stunning views. How on earth she saw it flying in the pitch blackness, let alone pick it out in the spotlight and follow it down onto the branch I'll never know, but it was all done with extreme skill.
We watched the owl briefly, then beat a hasty retreat, to minimise the disturbance caused to it. I was absolutely elated - the undoubted highlight of the trip, and a bird I had fully expected to miss. Having bored Sara senseless with a half-hour long blow by blow account of our triumph, I crashed out exhausted over a Red Stripe, and got on with my reading, before an early night.
Marshall's Pen (a.m.) - Least Grebe, Green-backed Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, White-winged Dove, Common Ground Dove, Crested Quail Dove, Ruddy Quail Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Jamaican Mango, Jamaican Woodpecker, Loggerhead Kingbird, Cave Swallow, Jamaican Crow, White-eyed Thrush, Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit
Portland Ridge - Tricolored Heron, Wilson's Plover, Killdeer, Black-winged Stilt, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Common Ground Dove, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Smooth-billed Ani, Grey Kingbird, Northern Mockingbird
Elim Pools - Pied-billed Grebe, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Green-backed Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, West Indian Whistling Duck, American Coot, Caribbean Coot, American Purple Gallinule, Moorhen, Northern Jacana, Jamaican Parakeet, Smooth-billed Ani, Loggerhead Kingbird
Marshall's Pen (p.m.) - Jamaican Owl
Wednesday, 6 September 2000
I now had to decide on our strategy for the rest of the trip. I had managed to clean up on most of the endemics, and only a few remained - Black-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Jamaican Pewee, Blue Mountain Vireo and Jamaican Blackbird. I also wanted to see a few non-endemic specialities, notably Rufous-throated Solitaire and Greater Antillean Elaenia.
Hardwar Gap would hopefully give me a chance for most of these birds, but on the way there I decided to take a detour to Bath Fountain, a stakeout for the highly range-restricted although locally common Black-billed Streamertail. In order to be able to go there, and still get to Hardwar Gap before dark, an early start was necessary.
Time therefore for only a brief bird walk before we were due to leave, and I recorded nothing new. The second Least Grebe had reappeared on the water tank, and a quick stroll in the woods produced just Jamaican Woodpecker and Jamaican Oriole.
We then said goodbye to Robert & Ann, who had been really excellent hosts, and we were off. A couple of hours later we were negotiating our way through Kingston, and out the other side on the A4. An hour and a half later we finally arrived at Bath Fountain, which was to the only place in Jamaica where we encountered hustlers of any kind.
In fairness, they were pretty inoffensive, and as with many Jamaicans knew a lot of the birds. A couple of them insisted on accompanying me on a walk along the path to the left hand side of the stream, and one of them picked out a Jamaican Tody by its local name. Common Ground Dove and Jamaican Woodpecker were also recorded on this quick walk, but I was getting a bit worried about Sara who I had left alone in the car back at the hotel. In any case, the bushes around the hotel are supposedly as good as any for the Black-billed Streamertails, so I decided to head back.
First, however, I had to lose my shadows, so I decided to show them how boring birding can be. After half an hour of standing still staring at some nearby bushes, another car pulled into the car park, and apologetically they left me to seek alternative prey! They eventually wandered back to me when I was birding in the car park and asked for some money, but left me alone when I refused.
Frustratingly, I failed to see Black-billed Streamertail here although I heard more than one whirring in the trees overhead - streamertails make a very distinctive noise in flight caused by the wind whistling through the tail streamers, and we were out of range for Red-billeds. However, I was unable to actually see one. I got briefly excited when a local pointed out a "Doctorbird", but unfortunately it was a Jamaican Mango. Eventually time and the heat got to me, and it was back in the car towards Kingston and Hardwar Gap.
Back in the nearby village of Bath, I was pulled over by a policeman who accused me of driving and reading a map at the same time (I was!). I had heard bad things about Jamaican policemen, and fully expected a fine, or a request for a backhander at the very least, but instead he asked me if I knew where I was going. I played dumb and asked for directions to Port Morant, which he gave me, and then told me to drive on. Whew!
Mid afternoon we arrived back in Kingston, and tried to navigate our way through the city looking for the road up to Newcastle and The Gap. This was really hard going - almost all road signs referred to other suburbs of Kingston which we'd never heard of, and none mentioned any other towns or villages. Without our Globetrotter map we'd have really struggled, but we just followed our instincts, following signs firstly for Cross Roads, then New Kingston, and finally for Papine, which is situated to the east of Kingston. Eventually, more by luck than judgement, we found our way onto Old Hope Road and, with just one more wrong turn, saw signs to Gordon Town and out of the city.
We had, however, lost about an hour driving around Kingston, and I was very keen to arrive at The Gap before dark. Fortunately, the road up to The Gap was in very good condition, although very narrow and twisty, and we made good time, arriving at Hollywell National Park at around 16:00. We reported to the ranger station as instructed, and encountered another problem. Although we had made a reservation with JCDT by e-mail, they had cancelled it as we had not paid for the cabin in advance (I hadn't been asked to!).
The staff at the National Park were absolutely brilliant. They got straight on the phone and berated the office staff for the mix-up, apologised profusely for the mix-up, and quickly allocated us a cabin - luckily none were booked. They offered us a smaller and cheaper cabin than the one we had booked, apologised again that the electricity was out due to a lightning strike, and gave us another discount because of that.
I had agreed to meet a park ranger, Dwight Pryce, who would act as a bird guide the following morning, and was worried that he would also have cancelled. No problem - they contacted Dwight for me, and arranged for him to come to meet me at the cabin at 06:00 the next morning. I can't speak too highly of the staff here, who were absolutely delightful throughout our stay, and a real credit to the National Park.
Having settled in, we had about an hour before dark, so we took a leisurely walk down the entrance road, and down the tar road towards the Gap Café. Loggerhead Kingbirds were common, and there was at least one Grey Kingbird amongst them. Rufous-throated Solitaire were calling everywhere, but none were seen at this time - Sara likened their call to a squeaky gate in need of oiling, which was a very accurate description of one of their calls, although they have a very varied repertoire.
Along the Gap road, we found a pair of the stunning Jamaican Spindalis, a Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Vireo, Orangequit and a couple of Bananaquits. A pair of Black Swifts flew over but didn't linger. No Blue Mountain Vireos, however, and I was starting to get worried now.
Back at the cabin it had gone completely dark, and we had no candles, so we had a very bizarre evening meal of soup cooked and eaten by torchlight, before crashing out at the ridiculously early time of 18:30.
Marshall's Pen - Least Grebe, Jamaican Woodpecker, Cave Swallow, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit, Jamaican Oriole
Bath Fountain - Common Ground Dove, Jamaican Mango, Black-billed Streamertail (heard), Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker
Road from Hollywell N.P. entrance - Gap Cafe - Black Swift, Grey Kingbird, Loggerhead Kingbird, Jamaican Vireo, Bananaquit, Jamaican Spindalis, Orangequit, Jamaican Oriole
Thursday 7 September 2000
Up at dawn, and Dwight showed up a little after 06:00. We decided to take his 4WD pick-up, and headed down to Newcastle, and up Catherine's Hill. We parked the truck at the chain barrier, and started walking slowly up the concrete road to the summit. First bird recorded was the first of several Jamaican Spindalis seen, and then we first heard and eventually managed to locate a Rufous-throated Solitaire.
Many previous visitors have reported difficulties in seeing this bird, but we had no problems at all, seeing at least 6 birds during the morning, some at very close range, including one bird hopping around on the road. According to Dwight, the light drizzle and patchy fog we were experiencing often brings them down lower in the vegetation, and they often show well during such weather - I certainly wouldn't argue with him based on the number of sightings we had.
Both Jamaican Vireo and Jamaican Woodpecker were seen well along the roadside then, at last, the first in what proved to be a succession of Blue Mountain Vireos. It is only when you see one that you realise what a distinctive bird this, with a whopping great bill, and very subtly attractive plumage. So much for all those Jamaican Vireos I'd been attempting to string into a Blue Mountain over the last couple of days! I ended the morning with a total of at least 5 of these birds.
Just then a bird flushed from the path ahead of us and disappeared - a Crested Quail Dove! Unfortunately, this gave even worse views than the one at Marshall's Pen the day before.
Next, Dwight spotted a Greater Antillean Elaenia, which unfortunately I couldn't get onto - very frustrating, as this is an easily missed bird. Red-billed Streamertail and Orangequit were seen well, before we got really stunning views of a Greater Antillean Bullfinch. I was relieved by this as the one I had seen at Rocklands earlier in the week was seen in pretty poor light, and I couldn't really appreciate all the plumage details. A little further along we found a pair of Arrow-headed Warblers, as active and mobile as ever, making it difficult to get prolonged views.
Soon we reached the summit of the hill, ending on a ridiculously steep climb up the last stretch of concrete road - how on earth they get vehicles up this last stretch is beyond me - it must have had a gradient of 1:1, and we could barely walk up it. According to Dwight, the bushes on the summit which you can view from above often have some good birds, but all we found were some Bananaquits.
However, as we were walking down a bird was seen in the bare branches of a nearby tree - a Greater Antillean Elaenia giving excellent views. Birds on the way down were much as on the way up, although some additional species were recorded. Black-faced Grassquits were heard wheezing away from a patch of long grass along the path and a Vervain Hummingbird hovered above our heads.
We saw Black-whiskered Vireos at two points, which surprised Dwight, as he rarely sees them so late in the season - they've usually migrated by now. This surprised me a little, as I had seen a few at other locations, but I'd imagine they migrate earlier from these higher elevations. Dwight also got a brief view at another migrant - this time an Ovenbird newly arrived from North America, but I didn't see it.
Jamaican Tody and a couple of Sad Flycatchers were also added onto the list along this return stretch. Back at the car we decided to take a quick walk along the side road which branches off the main road here. This soon produced a small flock of White-eyed Thrushes, as skulking as ever, although I got a few good although brief views. Another bird which is inclined to be a little less mobile and elusive in poor weather. At that point, however, we had our biggest disappointment of the morning - a Crested Quail Dove flushed from behind a small clump of flowers just a few metres ahead of us, and was gone in a flash. It must have been there for some time, watching us as we watched the thrushes, and only flew when we started walking again.
It was really galling to get so close to one without still seeing it properly, but that was to be it for the trip. However, any future visitor would be well advised to take an early morning walk along these roads up Catherine's Hill before the birds are flushed by other traffic, as they are apparently seen here regularly. We continued a little further, but only added another Jamaican Tody to our list before returning to the truck.
We returned to Hollywell National Park, and took another walk along the road between there and The Gap Café. This was again productive, producing another pair of Orangequits, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, American Kestrel, White-chinned Thrush. A further Rufous-throated Solitaire and Blue Mountain Vireo were also seen.
By this time it was 10:00, and time for Dwight to go to work. We had seen some excellent birds, and had cleared up almost all my want birds for the Hardwar Gap area, but hadn't had a sniff of Jamaican Blackbird. We therefore arranged to meet up again at the same time the next morning for another try.
I had some breakfast with Sara, and then we both strolled over to the Gap café for a cold drink, as it had got rather hot. We enjoyed the Red-billed Streamertails around the café's hummingbird feeders, then walked back seeing several Jamaican Spindalis and a pair of Sad Flycatchers.
Soon, however, it started clouding over, and for the next few hours we had a really big storm - pouring rain and plenty of thunder and lightning. At about 15:00 the storm abated, and I decided to take a hike along the Waterfall Trail where previous visitors had seen Jamaican Blackbird. However, I'd only been walking about 15 minutes when the rain returned and it again poured down for over an hour. I sheltered the best I could under a tree, but by the time it finished I was soaked through, and steaming nicely in the sun!
The high humidity made birding difficult for a spectacle wearer such as me, but on the soggy walk back to the cabin I managed a pair of White-eyed Thrushes (best views yet) and a pair of Jamaican Orioles. It was now a very nice evening, however, so a quick change and back to the Gap café area, again hoping for a flyover Jamaican Blackbird. I managed one each of Jamaican and Blue Mountain Vireos, Jamaican Woodpecker and American Kestrel.
Then, as it started getting dark, I heard the distinctive "zhweee-zhweee" call of a Jamaican Blackbird coming from way up the hill, together with the sound of falling debris. Several authors had mentioned that the best way of finding these birds was to listen for this sound, caused by the birds tearing apart bromeliad plants in search of their insect prey.
However, the light was fading very fast, and try as I might I just couldn't see where the noise was coming from. Eventually, in intense frustration, I was forced to give up, and return to the cabin before it got completely dark. A noisy flock of roosting Loggerhead Kingbirds opposite the rangers' station and a pair of overflying White-collared Swifts was very scant consolation. We again enjoyed a torchlit meal, this time of pasta and sauce, and tinned fruit to follow, before Sara had the brainwave of using the car's courtesy light to read by. This meant that we were able to extend our bedtime to a positively debauched 20:00 - the exciting lives we birders lead!
Catherine's Hill - Crested Quail Dove, Red-billed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Sad Flycatcher, White-eyed Thrush, Jamaican Vireo, Blue Mountain Vireo, Black-whiskered Vireo, Arrowhead Warbler, Bananaquit, Jamaican Spindalis, Black-faced Grassquit, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Orangequit
Road from Hollywell N.P. entrance - Gap Cafe (a.m.) - American Kestrel, Red-billed Streamertail, Sad Flycatcher, White-chinned Thrush, Blue Mountain Vireo, Jamaican Spindalis, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Orangequit
Waterfall Trail, Hollywell N.P. - White-eyed Thrush, Jamaican Oriole
Road from Hollywell N.P. entrance - Gap Cafe (evening) - American Kestrel, White-collared Swift, Jamaican Woodpecker, Loggerhead Kingbird, Jamaican Vireo, Blue Mountain Vireo
Friday 8 September 2000
I awoke this morning to a light but depressingly persistent drizzle - awful birding weather. Still, this was my last chance of Jamaican Blackbird, so I was determined to give it everything we had. I suspected that Dwight would think I wouldn't want to go out, and so I walked down to the ranger station where, sure enough, he was a little surprised to see me.
He was, however, happy to give it a try, so we again hopped into his 4WD and off we went. I told Dwight I wanted to concentrate this morning on Jamaican Blackbird. He looked dubious - these birds are much too difficult to be able to target like that with any great hope of success, but he said he knew of a good spot down the road towards Section where they are seen reasonably regularly, although far from a sure thing.
1.3 km from the park entrance, we pulled over where the road widens a little just after a hairpin to the left, and started scanning the ravine to our left. The habitat certainly looked good - thick cover, with lots of Wild Pine bromeliads - their favourites. These plants look like large pine cones, and grow on the branches of other trees. They are not parasites, as they generate their own nutrients through the production of chlorophyll, but stick to the bark of host trees to get them above the level of ground cover plants. Their leaves are closely packed and point upwards, which trap rainfall in small pools. These act as magnets for insects, which in turn are the blackbirds' food source.
First bird seen was another North American migrant - this time an American Redstart. A dark bird flew up and landed on a branch, but pulses went down again as we realised it was a White-eyed Thrush. Just then, however, Dwight called me over and told me that he thought he'd just heard a Jamaican Blackbird call deep down in the dense vegetation. I listened, and then it came again - a soft "chack" noise, apparently the species' contact call. However, the bird seemed in no hurry to show itself, and the rain really started coming down heavily, so we retreated to the truck, where we sat with the windows open hoping it would appear.
And suddenly, there it was! Or rather there they were - a fabulous pair of Jamaican Blackbirds just materialised on some fern fronds right in front of us, no more than 10 metres away. Stunning views of both birds as they hopped along a branch, and proceeded to attack a couple of bromeliads. We watched them for about 20 minutes until they eventually moved out of sight into the canopy of a large tree, still occasionally calling softly to each other.
Having got our target bird so early, we decided to have another try at getting better views of Crested Quail Dove. We drove down to Section where we turned right towards the Starlight Chalets and followed the road towards the abandoned Silver Hill coffee factory. This track soon became very poor - definitely 4WD only. However, the weather was still poor, and no dove seemed to fancy the wet and muddy road.
Back on the tar, we drove slowly south again towards The Gap, as the weather slowly improved, stopping for birds as we saw them. We soon found an Ovenbird hopping on the road - Louisiana Waterthrushes also apparently do this regularly in season. Other good birds included Jamaican Spindalis, Orangequit, Vervain Hummingbird, Red-billed Streamertail, and both Grey and Loggerhead Kingbirds. Dwight was again surprised to see Gray Kingbirds (known locally as Petchery), as he had again expected them to have migrated by now - again I had seen plenty at lower elevations throughout Jamaica.
Then, we saw a small dark bird flycatching from a branch overhanging the road. A quick stop and we had our Jamaican Pewee - one of the few endemics to have eluded me so far. This is actually a common bird, but had proved surprisingly elusive. I thought I might have seen one at Burnt Hill a few days earlier, but having seen a real one, I'm sure it wasn't, although I still don't know what it was! This particular bird was a little bedraggled because of the rain, but had surprisingly attractive plumage - much nicer than it looks in the book.
My time with Dwight was almost over - it was time to return to the cabin, as we had a long day's travelling ahead of us. As we were loading the car, however, Dwight produced one last surprise, as he picked up a silent Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo which flew behind me and landed in the open on a small tree a short distance away. Another bird which until now had only given poor views, and I had in fact decided not to tick it based on my views of the Rocklands bird, so it was a relief to see one properly.
I settled up with Dwight, and we negotiated our way along the muddy track from the cabins back to the tar road. Dwight was again not cheap, but he did the business - of the 6 target birds I had asked him to find for me, he got all bar the Crested Quail Dove, and we even glimpsed two of those. He was also absolutely brilliant company - a really nice bloke with a great sense of humour, and a pleasure to go birding with. Many thanks to Ellen and Tim for the recommendation!
By now I had only 2 endemics to go - Black-billed Streamertail and Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo. I decided to address the hummingbird first, and so we set off down the north side of the pass to Buff Bay. At Buff Bay we turned right to Port Antonio and found our way to the Mockingbird Hill Hotel. The area around Port Antonio and San San is an area of relatively dense Black-billed Streamertail population, and probably the westernmost place where this is the case, and Keith Taylor had scored easily at the hotel 2 years ago. Also, Sara was hungry, and I fancied a cold drink, so it seemed like a good choice.
Ten minutes after arriving, sitting on the upstairs patio enjoying a cold cola, a Black-billed Streamertail appeared amongst the upper branches of a tree a few metres away, feeding on the flowers - bingo! A Jamaican Mango also put in an appearance, as did a Grey Kingbird, and an American Kestrel flew over.
We enjoyed an excellent Greek salad and a couple of cold drinks on the terrace, by which time it was about 13:00, and time for us to start on our long trek westwards. I saw another Black-billed Streamertail near the car park, and then we were off. Our original plan had been to return to Mo Bay, and the Relax Resort, but traffic was often heavy on the coastal A1, and we were further delayed by a bad road accident in Ocho Rios.
I was very keen to avoid driving in the dark if it could be avoided, and then the answer came to me - rather than get all the way to Mo Bay, we'd stay at the Fisherman's Inn near Falmouth, which had been recommended by Ellen Paul in her trip report. This would solve a lot of problems - it had a pool which would keep Sara happy, it was much more convenient than Mo Bay for a quick trip up to Windsor Cave the next morning, and it would cut an hour off our trip tonight. My only worry was the price, but they had a room free for a pretty reasonable USD 95.
After being up in the mountains for a few days, we found it very hot down on the coast again, so having lugged all our gear indoors, we both crashed out in the pool, which we had to ourselves. Obviously, being a birder, I took my binocs with me, and so was able to enjoy the Sandwich Terns that floated past!
We finished the evening off with an excellent meal in the hotel restaurant - a nice change from the tinned soup we'd eaten for the last 3 nights! In fact, our only quibble with this excellent little hotel was that the air con didn't work, which made for a hot sweaty night's sleep, made worse by the dozens of biting sandflies which came in when we opened the balcony door for some air.
Road from Hollywell N.P. - Section - Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Red-billed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Pewee, Grey Kingbird, Loggerhead Kingbird, White-eyed Thrush, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Jamaican Spindalis, Orangequit, Jamaican Blackbird
Mockingbird Hill Hotel, Port Antonio - American Kestrel, Jamaican Mango, Black-billed Streamertail, Grey Kingbird
Falmouth - Sandwich Tern
Saturday 9 September 2000
This was our last day in Jamaica, and I had just one endemic to go - Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo. I also wanted to get better views of Crested Quail Dive, so I set off on an early morning trip to Windsor Cave. Unfortunately, the weather was very overcast, and hot and muggy, and birds were strangely silent, even compared with my previous visit.
I got to Windsor Cave, and walked a fair way along the trail up from Franklin's shack, and to the left at the back of the meadow. I did manage to flush a couple of Ruddy Quail Doves, but saw very little else, and there was almost no bird song, let alone any calling cuckoos or quail doves. On the way back down I found a pair of Zenaida Doves and a Smooth-billed Ani, as well as the usual Black-faced and Yellow-faced Grassquits, while Jamaican Crows called a few times in the woods.
Then, I suddenly decided I'd had enough for this trip. I was hot and sweaty, and very tired. I returned to the Fisherman's Inn, and back to the pool, where I just lounged around with Sara until it was time to check out. From the cool comfort of the pool, I enjoyed fly-by Royal Terns and a Brown Pelican, and yet another American Kestrel. A flock of Cave Swallows were hawking over the shore (hopefully gorging themselves on those annoying sandflies!), and a Little Blue Heron alighted on the jetty just a few yards away, and rested for a while.
After leaving the hotel, we drove until we found somewhere cool to park, and just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, reading books and dozing. Towards the end of the afternoon we returned the car to Dhana's offices, and they took us to the airport for our flight home. As we drove into the airport, my last bird sighting was a large flock of Greater Antillean Grackles feeding on a grass verge - a nice end to the trip.
Overall this was a fabulous trip, for both birder and non-birder alike. Sara got enough sun and swimming pool to keep her happy, and really enjoyed our stays at Mandeville and Hardwar Gap. I got an enormously high proportion of my target birds, of which the endemics, and especially Jamaican Owl and Jamaican Blackbird were the highlights.
Sadly, I never managed to see Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, and after reflection I have decided not to tick Crested Quail Dove based on the views I got. I also missed some non-endemic targets including Bahama Mockingbird and Antillean Nighthawk, which means I now have enough good reasons to make a return trip to Jamaica one day!
Windsor Cave - Zenaida Dove, Ruddy Quail Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Jamaican Crow, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-faced Grassquit
Falmouth - Brown Pelican, Little Blue Heron, American Kestrel, Royal Tern, Cave Swallow
Montego Bay - Greater Antillean Grackle
Please note - where I have not accurately counted the number of a particular species seen, I have preceded the location with 'n'. Numbers of each species seen are understated in many cases, especially regarding the commoner species - I'm not always as diligent as I should be in keeping numbers of species seen.
The letter 'h' denotes that the bird was heard but not seen.
1. Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus) 2 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), 2 Marshall's Pen (6.9)
2. Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) n Elim Pools (3.9), n Elim Pools (5.9)
3. Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) 1 Falmouth (2.9), 1 Falmouth (9.9)
4. Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) 1 Falmouth (2.9)
5. Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) n Elim Pools (3.9), n Elim Pools (5.9)
6. Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) n Elim Pools (3.9), n Elim Pools (5.9)
7. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) abundant everywhere
8. Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) 1 Long Bay (2.9), 1 Windsor Cave (2.9), 1 Falmouth (9.9)
9. Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) n Elim Pools (3.9), n Elim Pools (5.9), 2 Portland Ridge (5.9)
10. Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) 1 Elim Pools (3.9)
11. Green-backed Heron (Butorides virescens) 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Elim Pools (5.9)
12. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) 1 Montego Bay (2.9 evening), 1 Elim Pools (5.9)
13. Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) 2 Elim Pools (3.9), 2 Elim Pools (5.9)
14. West Indian Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arborea) 2 Elim Pools (5.9)
15. Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) n Elim Pools (3.9)
16. Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) abundant everywhere
17. Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1 Montego Bay (2.9 p.m.), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.)
18. American Kestrel (Falco sparverius dominicensis) 1 Windsor Cave (2.9), 1 Falmouth (2.9), 1 Hopewell (2.9), 1 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Elim Pools (3.9), 1 Kariba Kariba Guest House, Mandeville (4.9), 1 Burnt Hill (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - The Gap (7.9 a.m.), 1 Hollywell N.P. - The Gap (7.9 p.m.), 1 Mockingbird Hill Hotel (8.9), 1 Falmouth (9.9)
19. American Coot (Fulica americana) n Elim Pools (3.9), n Elim Pools (5.9)
20. Caribbean Coot (Fulica caribaea) n Elim Pools (3.9), n Elim Pools (5.9)
21. American Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica) n Elim Pools (3.9), n Elim Pools (5.9)
22. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) n Elim Pools (3.9), n Elim Pools (5.9)
23. Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa) 2+ Elim Pools (3.9), 2 Elim Pools (5.9)
24. Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia) 3 Portland Ridge (5.9)
25. Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) 2 Montego Bay (2.9 p.m.), 1 Portland Ridge (5.9)
26. Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) n Saltmarsh (2.9), n Portland Ridge (5.9)
27. Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) 5 Portland Ridge (5.9)
28. Royal Tern (Sterna maxima) 1 Falmouth (2.9), 1 Flamingo Bay (2.9), 1 Falmouth (9.9)
29. Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) 2+ Falmouth (8.9)
30. Rock Dove (Columba livia) 1 Santa Cruz (5.9)
31. White-crowned Pigeon (Columba leucocephala) n Montego Bay (2.9 evening), n Rocklands (3.9). Probably lots of others not recorded - the common pigeon of Jamaica
32. Ring-tailed Pigeon (Columba caribaea) 3 Burnt Hill (4.9). This is fast becoming a scarce bird, and is now officially classed as Threatened. In the summer it is very much a bird of the uplands, but descends down to sea level in winter. The tail markings are the key to identifying this bird.
33. White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) 1 Rocklands (3.9), n Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.)
34. Zenaida Dove (Zenaida aurita) 1 Montego Bay (2.9 p.m.), 1 Rocklands (3.9), 2 Windsor Cave (9.9)
35. Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina) 4+ Windsor Cave (2.9), n Rocklands (2.9), n Rocklands (3.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), n Portland Ridge (5.9), 1 Bath Fountain (6.9) Probably others - very common bird
36. Caribbean (White-bellied) Dove (Leptotila jamaicensis) 1 Rocklands (2.9), 1 Rocklands (3.9)
37. Crested Quail Dove (Geotrygon versicolor) 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), 2 Catherine's Hill (7.9) Very elusive, especially when not calling! Marshall's Pen, Windsor Cave and the roads around Hardwar Gap are regular sites. Early morning is probably best, at least along the roadsides, before traffic flush them.
38. Ruddy Quail Dove (Geotrygon montana) 2 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), 2 Windsor Cave (9.9)
39. Jamaican Parakeet (Aratinga nana) n Windsor Cave (2.9), c.5 Burnt Hill (4.9), 5 Elim Pools (5.9) Recently split from Olive-throated Parakeet of Central America.
40. Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) 5 Hopewell (2.9), 2+ Marshall's Pen (4.9), 3 Portland Ridge (5.9) Introduced and widespread species from South America.
41. Yellow-billed Parrot (Amazona collaria) 5+ Burnt Hill (4.9)
42. Black-billed Parrot (Amazona agilis) c. 6 Windsor Cave (2.9), 10+ Burnt Hill (4.9)
In the past, the best identification feature was thought to be the red patch in the wings of Black-billed. However, recent research has now shown that this is not always present. So, if your bird has a red patch in the wing, it's definitely a Black-billed, but if it doesn't it's not necessarily a Yellow-billed! The red throat patch of the Yellow-billed is visible if seen well, and these birds also look much paler in the face than Black-billed, due to the pale bill; and large patch around the eye. There are also differences in vocalisation and flight patterns, but I wouldn't like to express an opinion on these. If you wait long enough, you should get close up views, or even see one perched.
43. Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo (Hyetornis pluvialis) 1 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Cabin 1, Hollywell N.P. (8.9)
44. Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) 3+ Windsor Cave (2.9), 1 Montego Bay (2.9 p.m.), 1 Elim Pools (3.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), 2 Portland Ridge (5.9), n Elim Pools (5.9), 2 Windsor Cave (9.9)
45. Jamaican Owl (Pseudoscops grammicus) 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 p.m.)
46. Jamaican Potoo (Nyctibius griseus) 1 Rocklands (3.9) Recently split from Common Potoo of Central and South America
47. Black Swift (Cypseloides niger) 2 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (6.9)
48. White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris) 3 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 evening)
49. Antillean Palm Swift (Tachnornis phoenicobia) n Elim Pools (3.9), 1 Kariba Kariba Guest House, Mandeville (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9)
50. Jamaican Mango (Anthracothorax mango) 1 Rocklands (2.9), 2 Rocklands (3.9), 1+ Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), 1 Bath Fountain (6.9), 1 Mockingbird Hill Hotel (8.9)
51. Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus scitulus) n Rocklands (2.9), n Rocklands (3.9), n Burnt Hill (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Catherine's Hill (7.9), 3 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 a.m.), 2 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9)
52. Black-billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus) h Bath Fountain (6.9), 2 Mockingbird Hill Hotel (8.9)
Black-billed was previously considered to be a race of Red-billed, based on some examples found in the Blue Mountains with bicoloured bills. However, these are now known to be immature Red-billeds and no proven hybrids have been found. Black-billed occupies only the easternmost tip of the island, an area known locally as Portland, where Red-billed does not occur. The two species are almost allopatric with only a very narrow contact zone. As well as the black bill, the Black-billed is also a little smaller than Red-billed and had a more bluish tinge to its green plumage.
53. Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima) 1 Windsor Cave (2.9), 1 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Catherine's Hill (7.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9)
54. Jamaican Tody (Todus todus) 1 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Burnt Hill (4.9), 1 Bath Fountain (6.9), 2 Catherine's Hill (7.9
55. Jamaican Woodpecker (Melanerpes radiolatus) 1 Windsor Cave (2.9), 3+ Rocklands (3.9), h Burnt Hill (4.9), h Marshall's Pen (4.9), 2 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), h Marshall's Pen (6.9), 1 Bath Fountain (6.9), 1 Catherine's Hill (7.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 evening)
56. Jamaican Elaenia (Myiopagis cotta) 1 Rocklands (3.9)
57. Greater Antillean Elaenia (Elaenia fallax) 4 Catherine's Hill (7.9)
58. Jamaican Pewee (Contopus pallidus) 1 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9). Recently included within Greater Antillean Pewee, which has now been split into Jamaican, Hispaniolan and Crescent-eyed (Cuba & Bahamas) Pewees.
59. Sad Flycatcher (Myiarchus barbirostris) 2 Rocklands (3.9), 2 Catherine's Hill (7.9), 2 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 a.m.)
60. Rufous-tailed Flycatcher (Myiarchus validus) 1 Rocklands (3.9)
61. Stolid Flycatcher (Myiarchus stolidus) 3 Rocklands (3.9)
62. Grey Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis) 1 Hopewell (2.9), 1 Elim Pools (3.9), 2 Portland Ridge (5.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (6.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9), 1 Mockingbird Hill Hotel (8.9). Summer visitor only
63. Loggerhead Kingbird (Tyrannus caudifasciatus) 2 Montego Bay (2.9 ), 1 Martha Brae (2.9), 2+ Marshall's Pen (4.9), 2 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), n Elim Pools (5.9), n Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (6.9), 2 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 evening), n Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9). Probably others - abundant
64. Jamaican Becard (Pachyramphus niger) 1 Rocklands (3.9)
65. Cave Swallow (Hirundo fulva fulva) colony in garage under guest quarters at Marshall's Pen, n Falmouth (9.9) These are of the West Indian subspecies, also known as Cinnamon-throated Swallow.
66. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) n Elim Pools (3.9)
67. Jamaican Crow (Corvus jamaicensis) n Windsor Cave (2.9), n Rocklands (3.9), n Burnt Hill (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), h Windsor Cave (9.9)
68. Rufous-throated Solitaire (Myadestes genibarbis) 5+ Catherine's Hill (7.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 a.m.). Heard throughout time in Hardwar Gap area. In wet or foggy weather they feed much lower down, and were even seen feeding on the road.
69. White-eyed Thrush (Turdus jamaicensis) 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), n Catherine's Hill (7.9), 2 Waterfall Trail, Hollywell N.P. (7.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9) Only a few seen well - much harder to see properly than White-chinned Thrush. Not all birds have the white eye, especially out of breeding seasons - the white bar on the neck is a much better field mark.
70. White-chinned Thrush (Turdus aurantius) 1 Rocklands (2.9), 2 Rocklands (3.9), 1+ Marshall's Pen (4.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 a.m.)
71. Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) 2+ Montego Bay (2.9 a.m.), 1+ Marshall's Pen (4.9), 2 Portland Ridge (5.9). Probably others - quite a common bird
72. Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.). There must have been others that I just didn't pay any attention to!
73. Jamaican Vireo (Vireo modestus) 2+ Rocklands (3.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (6.9), 1 Catherine's Hill (7.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 evening) Again, I am sure there were others, but not recorded.
74. Blue Mountain Vireo (Vireo osburni) 5 Catherine's Hill (7.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 a.m.), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 evening)
75. Black-whiskered Vireo (Vireo altiloquus) 1 Windsor Cave (2.9), 1 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Burnt Hill (4.9), 2 Catherine's Hill (7.9). Summer visitor only, although Cuban population is apparently resident - very odd! Dwight was surprised that they were still around in the Hardwar Gap area in early September.
76. Arrowhead Warbler (Dendroica pharetra) 2 Rocklands (3.9), 2 Catherine's Hill (7.9)
77. American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) 1 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9)
78. Ovenbird (Seiurus auricapillus) 1 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9)
79. Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) 1 Windsor Cave (2.9), 1 Rocklands (2.9), 1 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Burnt Hill (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (4.9), 2 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.), 2 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (6.9), n Catherine's Hill (7.9). Another species I probably under-recorded. The birds in Jamaica represent a distinctive and endemic subspecies of this very variable bird.
80. Jamaican Euphonia (Euphonia jamaica) 3 Rocklands (3.9), 2 Marshall's Pen (4.9)
81. Jamaican Spindalis (Jamaican Stripe-headed Tanager) (Spindalis nigricephala) 2 Rocklands (3.9), 2 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (6.9), n Catherine's Hill (7.9), 3 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 a.m.), 2 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9). Recently included in Stripe-headed Tanager which was recently split into Jamaican, Western (Cuba & Bahamas), Hispaniolan and Puerto Rican Spindalis.
82. Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivacea) n Windsor Cave (2.9), n Rocklands (2.9), 1 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Burnt Hill (4.9), n Marshall's Pen throughout, n Windsor Cave (9.9)
83. Black-faced Grassquit (Tiaris bicolor) n Windsor Cave (2.9), n Rocklands (2.9), n Rocklands (3.9), 2 Burnt Hill (4.9), n Marshall's Pen throughout, 1 Catherine's Hill (7.9), n Windsor Cave (9.9). Very common, and usually in mixed flocks with Yellow-faced Grassquits
84. Yellow-shouldered Grassquit (Loxipasser anoxanthus) 1 Rocklands (3.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (5.9 a.m.). This isn't closely related to the Yellow-faced and Black-faced Grassquits, being more similar in behaviour to Greater Antillean Bullfinch. They are rarely found on the ground like the Tiaris grassquits, usually found higher up in trees and bushes.85. Greater Antillean Bullfinch (Loxigilla violacea) 1 Rocklands (2.9), 2 Catherine's Hill (7.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 a.m.)
86. Orangequit (Euneornis campestris) 2 Rocklands (3.9), 2 Burnt Hill (4.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (6.9), 1 Catherine's Hill (7.9), 2 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (7.9 a.m.), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9)
87. Jamaican Blackbird (Nesopsar nigerrimus) 2 Hollywell N.P. - Section (8.9)
88. Greater Antillean Grackle (Quiscalus niger) 2 Windsor Cave (2.9), 1 Rocklands (3.9), n Montego Bay (9.9)
89. Jamaican Oriole (Icterus leucopteryx) 1 Rocklands (3.9), 2 Burnt Hill (4.9), 1 Marshall's Pen (6.9), 1 Hollywell N.P. - Gap Cafe (6.9), 2 Waterfall Trail, Hollywell N.P. (7.9)